It was easy to choose my favorite quilt from all the entries at the recent Pacific international Quilt Festival.

Paws down, it was Pup Art by Nancy S. Brown of Oakland, California.

Pup Art by Nancy S. Brown

In the quilt description, Nancy wrote that she loves animals and they are almost always the inspiration for her quilts, and that Charles Schultz got it right when he said, ‘Happiness is a warm puppy.’

I contacted Nancy and she graciously sent me a little more information about this happy quilt. “I like to make animal portraits with hand appliqué but don’t get to use bright colors (which I love) very often in them. I have been telling my students for years that you can make animals in any colors as long as you keep the lights and darks where they belong. I finally decided to take my own advice. I chose puppies as a theme after making a baby quilt with a blue laborador on it and of course, I just love puppies. I dyed most of the fabric myself and overdyed some black and white prints to add some texture.”

Here are a few of the colorful pups from the quilt, which, as Nancy says, “celebrates those wonderful, bouncy bundles of joy.”

And, it wasn’t just me who was captivated by the puppies. I was delighted to learn that Pup Art won the 2008 PIQF Viewer’s Choice Award!

When I visited Nancy’s website at, I was reminded of one of her earlier quilts that I had fallen in love with when I saw it at PIQF. Be sure to check out all of her incredible quilts, especially Sunday in the Park with Mittens and look for the papillon in the front row! (Little dog, big fluffy ears.) Unbelievably, Nancy tells me that the papillon in that quilt belongs to a friend of hers and his name is Willie too!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the sixth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

Since the plan was to not include any projects in Easy Appliqué Blocks, Martingale returned my sample quilt. Now I needed to stitch up those eight blocks independently to complete the stack of 50. I also started working on my writing sample and Table of Contents. They had sent me the set of Author Guidelines, which included information on how the manuscript was to be coded. I actually loved coding the manuscript! It’s a way of indicating what’s a heading, what’s a subheading, what’s a caption, what’s a box, where the photos and illustrations go, etc. Fun! (If you’re a little nerdy like me.)

During this time I sent a couple questions.. The first was, did we name specific products? The answer was no, they preferred not to name specific products or fabrics. Not a problem, just needed to know.

Second, per their author guidelines, did they really want me to send just printouts of all of my patterns and illustrations? Surely they would want me to send them my computer files…??

The answer came back no. Just send printouts, and their illustrators would take it from there. I was puzzled. That was going to be a lot of work for them, and actually I was a little apprehensive that the patterns would lose some little essence of “me” when re-rendered. But, I knew going into this that I would not have control, so I rolled with it.

teddybear.gifBefore my December 7 deadline, I sent in the eight blocks, the writing sample, printouts of the illustrations that corresponded, and the Table of Contents. I also had to send my date of birth for the Library of Congress. ( How exciting! Well, I already have an authority record actually, but it’s pretty cool to think about.) Plus a copy of my schedule. I pulled together all of the show dates for the next year when I would be busy with my booth, plus one measly vacation (that never happened) and Shop Hop, etc. I thought it mighty considerate of the company to ask for my schedule so that they could work around it.

The next step would be to receive feedback from Karen about the sample chapter and my coding skills. Stay tuned!

Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Every year I look forward to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara. It’s less than an hour’s drive, and I’ve been so many times now that it’s like coming to see an old friend when I catch sight of the convention center.

There’s also a chess tournament in Reno that my husband likes to go to, and I love going with him. While he’s duking it out with worthy opponents over the chess board, I’m on vacation in a grown-up playground. Penny slots and the bingo parlor, so much fun! And, Reno has a fabulous quilt shop, Windy Moon.

Each year I hold my breath to find out the dates of these two events. They’re always close to one another, and sometimes they’re the same weekend. Dang! Just like the previous two years, they were at the same time this year too. I decided to split the difference and try to catch some of each.

So, on Thursday I dropped DH Dana at the San Jose airport, where he caught a quick flight to Reno. I continued on the short distance to the Santa Clara Convention Center and took in PIQF for the day. As always, it’s a wonderful show, very inspiring and full of energy. I took some pictures of a couple of appliqué quilts that I just loved, and hopefully I’ll be able to share them here on the blog if I’m able to get permission from the quilters. And, of course, I thoroughly tromped the vendor aisles. This year my mission was to find fresh fabrics for appliqué. I’ve been working on tons of new designs and was getting a little tired of rummaging through the same old same old fabrics in my stash.

Here’s my haul from PIQF.

The next day, Friday, I dropped all the animals at Bed & Biscuits and set off for Reno. Somehow I got there in less than five hours (I’m pretty sure that’s a record) and hooked up with the DH. We always stay at the Sands Regency ’cause that’s where the tournament is and they give us cheap rates don’tcha know.

The next day, Saturday, I set off for Windy Moon.

It’s not far away from the Sands… I just head for the Holiday Inn that sticks up and it’s on that same little street.

Here’s what you see when you walk in the door. A quilter’s delight!

Just one of the many nooks and crannies stuffed with gorgeous fabric.

I asked if they had any appliqué patterns from local designers, and the ladies directed me to a darling Snowman Advent Calendar from Cutie Patootie Designs.


Here’s my pile, under the famous speckled rock.

After my visit to Windy Moon, I set out south to hunt for another quilt shop that I had seen on-line: Going Batty. I found it with some good directions from their website.

A very pleasant, spacious shop with yummy fabrics.

My fabric finds from Going Batty.

So, it was a great, long, whirlwind weekend. I got to do everything I wanted and had a great time. Dana tied for second in his division and won some $$. If you’re interested in chess, you can read the whole story at Dana Blogs Chess.

And I was very happy with my fabric trove. It’s great to have some new pretty pieces to pull from.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Darcy Ashton has a darling new bunny book! It’s not up on her website yet but go take a look at it on her blog. Darcy also gives a sneak peak all the cute projects that are in the book.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

I’ve had this Hawaiian appliqué block hanging around for 9 years, ever since DH Dana and I went to the Big Island. I got a pillow kit in a little quilt store there. I remember swapping out the background for something from my stash. The pattern was all cut out and ready to sew. I did all the stitching, and there it went into the UFO stack.


It’s been kicking around so long that I don’t even remember the name of the pattern… I think it’s Breadfruit. Anybody? Anybody?

Dana was so taken by Hawaii and its culture that about three years ago he started studying hula at the Hula School of Santa Cruz. He absolutely loves it. The halau (school) is coming up on its 10th anniversary and they are planning a huge ho’ike (hoedown) in celebration. The students are holding lots of fundraisers to be able to pay the musicians that are coming over from Hawaii.

So, a couple weeks ago I pulled out my block and decided to finally make it into a pillow. I can’t claim to know much about Hawaiian quilting, but I do know that you’re supposed to do echo quilting in succeeding rounds to recall the waves of the ocean. I gave it my best shot.

Yesterday I sent Dana with the project down to Round Robin Fabrics here in Santa Cruz to get a Hawaiian print for the back. He and Robin had a great time picking something out and they did a great job.


I completed the quilting, cut out two pieces for the back, and finished the pillow envelope style, stuffing in a pillow form.


Now the cat hair has been removed and the pillow is hermetically sealed in a plastic bag for delivery to the halau, to go in a raffle basket or as a door prize.

This is why it’s nice to have a little stack of UFOs. :)

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the fifth in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

I received the contract for the book and read it over carefully. I sort-of knew what to look for, living in a writerly family with a science journalist and book author for a husband. I knew that receiving advances was not standard in the quilt-book trade (at least not for neophyte writers) so that was not a surprise. That’s right kids… you’ll work on a book for 2-3 years without seeing a penny :) . You better be in it for the love of this type of work.

Everything in the contract looked good but I did have a few questions for Karen, so I gave her a call.

In the contract, the book was described as a block book with no projects included. I told Karen, “You just made my life a whole lot easier!” No quilt instructions would mean less work for me.

lemonflower.gifI confirmed with her that the order of the blocks could stay alphabetical by the simple titles I had given them, and that I didn’t have to number the pieces like it said in the guidelines. Since the blocks were very simple in nature, with just a few pieces, I could leave them unnumbered.

I also asked Karen whether things were confidential at this point. The answer was “sorta.” I could definitely tell family and friends, but it would be better to hold off on sweeping announcements until later. Also, she counseled me not to go into the “companion CD” aspect until such time as I got the go-ahead from the Marketing division, both so that the idea wouldn’t be scooped and so that the company would have a chance to work out the details of the CD production. (I’ve since received the green light on that.)

An important question was whether Martingale had feelings about me continuing to publish my own books. I had made it clear in my proposal that the appliqué tips were based on text that had appeared in my previously self-published books, and just wanted to make sure things could go on. Karen told me that was okay… they just wouldn’t want me to publish anything that was the same or substantially similar. No problem.

It was a great conversation, and it enabled me to move ahead with signing the contract. I noticed that the tentative working title had been changed to Easy Appliqué Blocks. I was very grateful for that, because “The Little Book of Big Appliqué” was just not flying. My friends would ask me, “How’s the Big Book of Little Appliqué coming? Or is it the Book of Little Appliqué… The Little Big Book of Appliqué… what the heck is it?” It got so that I couldn’t even say it right. On top of that, I noticed that Martingale was already publishing a boxed set of patterns called “The Little Box of Baby Quilts.” Easy Appliqué Blocks was sounding real good.

The next step would be for me to submit a sample chapter and a complete Table of Contents by December 7, 2007. Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Alicia Lafferty of Del Rey Oaks, California, was the winner for October among registered readers of the blog. Congratulations Alicia!

Alicia is receiving a copy of A Merry Little Christmas to Appliqué as well as my Peekaboo pattern.

A Merry Little Christmas to Appliqué by Kay Mackenzie
Peekaboo quilt pattern by Kay Mackenzie

If you register you can be eligible for the monthly prize drawings too. See the right-hand sidebar.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

This is quite thrilling. Maria Peagler, author of the forthcoming book Color Mastery, has consented to do a guest post!

Our mutual photographer Gregory Case put Maria and myself in touch with one another, then we found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder more than once at Quilt Market in May, where much chatting ensued. I was privileged to see an advance copy of Maria’s beautiful book and to write a blurb for the jacket.

Here’s Maria now to clue us in on how to begin our journey to appliqué color mastery.

I’m delighted to be with you here today at the All About Appliqué blog. Thanks, Kay, for inviting me to share about my favorite topic: color. I’ve been quilting for over 15 years, doing piecing and appliqué, and hands down my favorite, and most challenging, part of the process is selecting the color palette for a quilt. For too long, my color results were hit or miss, until I developed my own unique approach to color based on my experience in other artistic mediums, like watercolor (shown below) and colored pencil.

Watercolor by Maria Peagler

When I started as a quilter, I didn’t really understand how to use color effectively in my quilts, so I copied what other, more experienced quilters did. Here’s a block I completed in a Harriet Hargrave Machine Appliqué class. I can’t tell you why I chose these colors, because they certainly don’t reflect my style. I was simply doing what I thought appliquérs were supposed to do.

Because it didn’t reflect my style, I never did anything with it. I believe that’s why we as quilters end up with so many UFOs. We had a great idea that we didn’t quite know what to do with or it didn’t end up as we had hoped.

Fast forward ten years, and here’s my appliqué style now:

What made the difference? Two things really:

  1. Knowing my own color preferences and style
  2. Understanding the DNA of color and how to manipulate it for outstanding results

How did I get there?

It certainly wasn’t overnight, and I really had to find my own way. I tried many of the color books out there for quilters, but nothing struck a chord with me. They were beautiful books filled with gorgeous quilts, but I couldn’t relate to any of them. So I started my own color adventure.

First, I kept a color journal. I filled it with photographs of quilts, gardens, furniture, decorating, children’s clothes, artwork, and anything else that had colors that spoke to me. I needed to find out what I loved and why, and this exercise really helped me. I now have about five of these journals and I refer back to them frequently. Knowing my own color style gave the confidence to use a black background on this Christmas appliqué quilt.

Second, I begrudgingly learned color theory. That wasn’t my intention, but I took a watercolor painting class and quickly learned I couldn’t get the results I wanted without understanding the color wheel. It took a lot of practice and many color wheels for me to finally understand why the color wheel is important and how it is a visual map to how colors interact: the closer together colors are on a color wheel, the less contrast they have. The farther apart colors are, the higher their contrast.

For appliqué, contrast is important to make the appliqués stand out from the background and from each other. In the poppy quilt shown below, I used low-medium contrast to define the poppy petals, and high contrast colors (red vs. green, directly across from each other on the color wheel) for the poppy to stand out from the background.

My top three tips for getting outstanding color in appliqué quilts are:

  1. Start keeping a color journal to develop your unique color vision.
  2. Make a color wheel using your own fabric stash. I have a fun and easy tutorial on how to do this here.
  3. Play with appliqués made with colors in varying amounts of contrast to see which color combinations you like best and give your appliqués great definition.

My quilting style transformed after learning color theory, as I had the confidence to not only develop my own color palettes, but my own designs as well. Now that I understood how to marry my color preferences with color theory, I also included my love for drawing and sketching into my own quilt designs.

My background is in technical writing and instructional development, so after finally “getting” outstanding color in my quilts, I immediately thought, “Why hasn’t anyone ever explained colors to quilters this way? Quilters don’t need to know everything about the color wheel, just the stuff that applies to fabric!”

So, I wrote the book I had wished for as a quilter trying to understand color. It’s for experienced quilters who have a stash and like doing quilts that are stunning, but simple to construct. Focus on the color, not on complicated piecing or appliqué instructions. And it has a fun appliqué project I’ve done in two different color harmonies so you can see the stark difference a color palette makes in the same quilt. The book is Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts, and will be in quilt shops in February.

It’s been so much fun stopping by and chatting with you Kay! I look forward to your book coming out in March and it will certainly be in my quilting library.


Kay here… visit the Color Mastery website to read more about Maria’s upcoming book.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Being the 4th in a series of posts about a book proposal, from concept to print.

After sending in the proposal for “The Little Book of Big Appliqué” to Martingale & Company in July 2007, I started working on Teapots 2 to Appliqué. The work involved in putting out my own books is a quite a bit different — but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

As I worked on the teapot designs, a month went by, two months, three months, and I really tried not to obsess over it. On October 17, 2007, I was at my computer when I received a phone call from Karen, acquisitions editor for Martingale & Company. She told me that they had decided to proceed with my book, CD and all!

kingqueen.gifHow lucky am I, to have my very first proposal accepted by my first choice of publisher. Thank you Martingale & Company!

Karen told me she would be sending me the contract and author guidelines, and after I received them I could call her with any questions that I had. I hung up the phone and did the happy dance. :)

Stay tuned,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs